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Blast from the Past: 2017 Mexican Grand Prix

Written by Jacob Awcock, Edited by Meghana Sree

Formula One arrived in Mexico with Lewis Hamilton leading the World Championship, knowing a fifth place or higher could secure him his fourth title. The high altitude of Mexico City, the circuit being 2,000 meters above sea level, meant much less drag generated by the cars due to the thinner air, meaning much higher speeds. Teams had to generate specific aerodynamic packages that could cope with this level of altitude which always results in a mixed-up grid. This was evident after qualifying with Hamilton managing only third place while Sebastian Vettel lined up on pole, Max Verstappen separating the pair of them.

The Mexican crowd was out in full force to see the title battle reach its climax; Image credits: Daniel Cardenas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

As the lights on the gantry blinked out, the front three made an even start and were wheel to wheel as they headed into Turn One for the first time. With Vettel on the inside and Verstappen in the middle the pair went wheel to wheel as they headed into Turn Two; but the pair touched, unsettling Vettel and putting Verstappen in the lead. With Vettel unsettled, Hamilton sensed his chance and shot up the inside.

He was ahead heading out onto the back straight but not fully ahead. As they exited Turn Three, Vettel got a dose of oversteer heading out of the corner and, with Hamilton not fully ahead of him yet, made contact with his rear wheel; giving Hamilton a puncture and Vettel front wing damage. This meant that they both had to pit for repairs, dropping them to the rear of the field.

Verstappen had a commanding lead and looked untouchable as he completed lap after lap, consistently extending his lead after each lap over second place Valtteri Bottas and third place Esteban Ocon. However, the same couldn't be said for his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who, despite some spectacular overtakes in the opening part of the race, retired on lap six.

Verstappen was untouchable all race; Image Credits: Daniel Cardenas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Verstappen continued to extend his lead out front but it was, surprisingly, Vettel who was making the most progress up through the field and by lap 30 he sat comfortably in ninth place while Hamilton was in sixteenth place struggling to pass the Sauber of Marcus Ericcson. Having seemed untouchable to the rest of the field in his silver arrows it came as a surprise to the Mexican crowd and viewers at home that the three-time champion was struggling to pass a driver who hadn't scored a single point all season.

With everyone having made their pitstops, Hamilton was told over the radio that eighth place was his realistic finishing position but, with Vettel being stuck in traffic and most likely unable to get further than fourth, this would be enough for him to secure his fifth world championship. Vettle had to finish second or higher (outscore Hamilton by 16 points) in order to keep his championship hopes alive and with second place Bottas thirty seconds up the road this was unrealistic. But for Hamilton to achieve his target he just needed to pass another four cars and gain sixteen seconds over the next twenty laps. It seemed practically impossible. Not for Hamilton though.

First was Stoffel Vandoorne, whom he breezed past and immediately began to close the three second gap to Felipe Massa, who he caught a few laps later. Another simple pass executed and Hamilton was into the points, for his next target: Fernando Alonso. The pair had history in the past when they were teammates at Mclaren, most notably the incident in qualifying at Hungary where Alonso prevented Hamilton setting a faster lap in the final session of qualifying. And Alonso wasn't going to let Lewis past easily; Hamilton on the outside as they headed into Turn One, tried to swoop round the outside but Alonso ran Lewis wide, tightening his entry into Turn Two and consequently compromising his exit speed.

The pair went wheel to wheel again as they headed down the back straight and into Turn Four and yet again Hamilton took the outside line and this time did manage to hold the line and swoop into ninth place. But this maneuver had cost him time, lots of time which proved costly came the checkered flag.

Lewis Hamilton raises his arms in triumph as a four time world champion; Image credit: Daniel Cardenas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Verstappen crossed the line to take the win, twenty seconds ahead of Bottas in second place. Raikkonen finished the podium with his teammate Vettel managing fourth place. Lewis Hamilton came home in ninth place, one second behind Kevin Magnussen in eighth place. While the top three celebrated finishing on the podium Hamilton flew the british flag while doing donuts in front of the Mexican crowd in the stadium section. A fourth World Championship had been won by the Brit who was quickly becoming an unstoppable force in Formula One.

A young Verstappen watched on from the top step. This was his third win in Formula One yet his most dominant at that point. Twenty seconds ahead of second place and he never looked in doubt.

Sky sports commentator David Croft commented on the young talent: “Will we see Max Verstappen winning titles?” Little did he know what was to come from the young Dutchman.


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